As Americans await results from several key states in the race for the nation’s highest office, President Donald Trump’s legal team has filed lawsuits in multiple states claiming impropriety and laying the groundwork for a battle over the results.
It may be tempting to reflect on one of the most memorable moments in election history -- the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore -- as 2020 results hang in the balance.
But constitutional law expert Ken Katkin said we’re unlikely to see a repeat of the sort of legal fallout seen in 2000.
“It used to be unusual to litigate the results of elections, but that was successfully done in the 2000 presidential election,” Katkin said.
Katkin, a professor at Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University who also litigated constitutional law cases in Washington D.C., said this fight is far from over.
“Pennsylvania may take until Friday, but if you compare that to 2000, Florida was still counting into December before the lawsuits even started because it’s actually more normal in a close election for everybody to want to watch the counts very carefully,” he said, adding that the courts would be expected to wrap up before the electoral college casts an official vote in December.
Katkin said things shouldn’t be as tumultuous this time around, despite Trump's legal challenges.
“It’s not that likely in this case to be successful because the kind of issues that President Trump could litigate could probably affect only a small number of votes,” he said.
President Trump has described the ongoing ballot count as fraud, telling supporters he’ll take his fight to the Supreme Court. He also takes particular issue with mail-in or absentee votes received after Election Day.
“Now that Justice (Amy Coney) Barrett is on the court, she has the possibility of deciding these cases opposite of how the state courts have previously decided them.”
President Trump could also challenge the legality of any recounts, but Katkin said it likely won’t create a large enough shift to change the outcome. He added there is a way to mitigate these kinds of legal battles from both sides in the future.
“Some of these states that are really the source of all the problems right now, they could change their law to allow what we have in Ohio. And they could allow early votes to be counted or at least processed for acceptability as they come in. If they would do that, we would have had a result on election night,” he said.
Katkin said despite legal challenges, the idea of not having official results in the next few weeks is highly unlikely.